Like Scared Straight! for wannabe teenage baby mamas, the new NBC reality TV show "The Baby Borrowers" tries to frighten the beejezuz out of young kids by showing them the ugly side of life in the diaper lane.
Most everybody has heard about this show by now, but if you haven't, here's a quick recap: Five couples, ages 18 to 20, are put on the fast track of parenthood, starting with a real baby. They go on to take care of a toddler, a pre-teen, a young teenager and even a senior citizen. Along the way, they deal with projectile vomiting, sleepless nights, potty training, juvenile delinquency, couples squabbles … sound familiar? Predictably, by the end of the social experiment, none of the participants want to have children anytime soon.
The series (www.nbc.com/The_Baby_Borrowers/) comes with a clear message for teens: You're not ready to get pregnant.
All this is very neat and tidy. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy even has a discussion guide that goes with the show (www.thenationalcampaign.org/media/entertainment-media.aspx).
Now I don't want to bash the good intentions here and I'm not advocating teen motherhood, but did anybody notice that all of the young couples on the show are sleeping together as they play house in a lovely furnished home on a cul de sac outside Boise, Idaho? Sounds pretty darn attractive to me (except for the Idaho part). I'd like to see a follow-up report on how many of the young women from the show got knocked up while filming it. I'd also like to point out that many state programs modeled after Scared Straight! – the 1978 documentary that tried to scare the beejezuz out of teens by showing them the ugliness of life in prison – proved to be ineffective. A meta-analysis of seven of these programs in 2002 found that "scared straight" programs not only failed to deter crime, but actually led to more offending behavior.
If you really want to keep your teenage daughter from getting pregnant, skip the entertainment and scare tactics. Buy her a pack of condoms.